Broadcom Readying Wearable Computing Platform for IoT

A new smart chip will enable new use cases for wearable PCs, such as smartwatches, heart and blood-pressure monitors and numerous others.

As more and more companies begin staking out their claims to portions of the coming Internet of things, communications processor-maker Broadcom is already in place as the proverbial 800-pound giant in one of those sectors: wireless connectivity.

In fact, Broadcom is the undisputed heavyweight champion of wireless connectivity, since its chips help move 99.98 percent of all data traffic and reside in 75 percent of cell phones--and that's hundreds of millions of mobile phones.

IMS Research has predicted that as the IoT blossoms, there will be 30 billion connected devices in operation by the year 2020. That's a lot of chips yet to be made, and Irvine, Calif.-based Broadcom plans to continue to be a key supplier of them.

Many of those chips will be built into devices other than handheld PCs. Wearable computing, another hot topic in IT at the moment, will play a major part in this market.

Enabling New Use Cases for Wearables

With this in mind, Broadcom came out with its new Wireless Internet Connectivity for Embedded Devices (WICED) smart chip to enable new use cases for wearables, such as smartwatches, heart and blood-pressure monitors and numerous others.

WICED is designed to support wireless charging for devices that are too small to connect via a power cord; it is a highly integrated device with a cool-running ARM Cortex M3 applications processor that reduces size and cost for original equipment manufacturers.

WICED supports A4WP wireless charging and enhanced data security modes in addition to secure over-the-air firmware updates. This is an integrated ARM CM3 microcontroller unit with radio frequency and Embedded Bluetooth Smart Stack, all on a single chip.

"We are committed to pushing the boundaries on what wearables are capable of with our new WICED smart chip," said Brian Bedrosian, Broadcom senior director of Embedded Wireless and Wireless Connectivity.

Key Feature List

Other key features of the WICED Smart chip include:

--Bluetooth Smart-compliant, single-mode, low-energy configuration;
--full software support for GATT, profiles, stack, APIs and application software development kit;
--on-chip support for 2 serial peripheral interfaces (SPIs);
--small form-factor with 6.5 x 6.5 mm solution footprint.

"In the coming years, wearable computing devices will play a more crucial role in our lives. ABI Research projects over 50 million wearable devices will ship in 2013 and 540 million in 2018, providing higher user engagement levels," said Joshua Flood, senior analyst for Market Intelligence firm ABI Research.

"Bluetooth Smart will be a key enabler for ensuring the link between devices that are constantly 'on' and the optimum battery performance is held."

Competitors Are Global

Broadcom competes in the marketplace with companies such as Taiwan Semiconductor, Marvell and Xilinx.

The Broadcom WICED Smart chip is currently sampling with evaluation boards and SDKs. It is expected to become available sometime in 2014.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...